H. Robert Harrison, M.D., an Atlanta pediatrician who sued Aetna five years ago, now finds himself on an advisory committee keeping the Hartford, Conn.-based insurer abreast of problems faced by practicing physicians nationwide.
"I don't know how it's going to play out," Harrison tells Modern Physician of his appointment, which Aetna announced on Monday. "This is a new ball game."
The nine-member advisory committee, part of Aetna's class action settlement with physicians and medical societies announced in May, is supposed to "hear the concerns of the medical community and make recommendations about Aetna's business practices," according to an Aetna release.
Aetna officials say members--all but two of whom are Aetna-contracted physicians--will meet for the first time in the early spring. At around that time, Aetna says, it will set up a new Web site for contracted physicians to send concerns to the committee.
Harrison, one of three physicians chosen by plaintiffs in the settlement to serve on the committee, now has a more conciliatory tone.
"I hope that we will be forming a relationship with managed care that is good for patients and respects the interest of physicians and of Aetna," he says.
Aetna chose three members to the committee, and the six original members then chose three more members at a meeting in the fall, according to William Popik, M.D., chief medical officer of Aetna. Popik is one of the Aetna representatives and also chairman of the committee.
Popik tells Modern Physician the committee will meet at least twice a year, probably by telephone. At the next meeting, he says, he plans to review Aetna's responsibilities in the lawsuit.
"I want to ask, 'How can Aetna use its resources to make it easier for physicians to practice?'" he says.
Referring to the other committee members, Popik adds: "These guys are seeing the patients and they can help us come up with solutions to problems that come up."
Following is the full roster of advisory committee members.
Representing plaintiffs:H. Robert Harrison, M.D., a pediatrician, epidemiologist and pediatric infectious diseases consultant from Atlanta.
William Gee, M.D., a urologist in Lexington, Ky., an chairman of health policy at the American Urological Association.
Russell Libby, M.D., a pediatrician who is president of the Virginia Pediatric Group in Fairfax, Va.
Representing Aetna:William Popik, M.D., chief medical officer of Aetna in Hartford, Conn.
Juan Reyna, M.D., a urologist at San Antonio and Southwest Urologic Management, San Antonio, Texas.
Stanley Goldfarb, M.D., an internist and associate dean for clinical education at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
Chosen by both groups:Scott Hayworth, M.D., an OB/GYN who is president and chief executive of Mount Kisco Medical Group in New York.
Robert Oblath, M.D., a vascular surgeon in Encino, Calif., who is a member of the Health Policy Steering Committee of the American College of Surgeons.
J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, M.D., an internist and acting deputy chief medical officer of the Cancer Control Science Department of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta.